Bergum keeps ahead of the labour game

As turnkey labour accommodation specialist Al Masaood Bergum celebrates it's 30th years in the Gulf, general manager, Steve McConnachie, discusses the company's latest and future projects.

Steve McConnanchie
Steve McConnanchie

As turnkey labour accommodation specialist Al Masaood Bergum celebrates it's 30th years in the Gulf, general manager, Steve McConnachie, discusses the company's latest and future projects.

So which projects are you working on at the moment?

In Qatar, we've won some contracts with Hyundai and we're pricing a large project at the moment with Fluor.

We're also finishing off some projects in Qatar with Al Jaber and Shell.

But we're going to target different types of projects now with our new steel-framed. We're going to keep to the core business - steel-framed and timber-framed buildings - but we're going to go ahead with low-cost housing and permanent steel structure type of stuff. And this new system will allow us to do this.

Ten companies account for just under 70% of our business, as repeat orders. And as they've grown, we've grown. The extra 30% or so has been from new orders and clients.

Our new factory in Dubai Investment Park, a new 40,000m2 facility, will be up and running by the end of the year, which will also encompass this new framemaster automated production line.

How exactly will the new steel system help?

Because of the way things are going with the construction of labour camps, they're now townships. So they need local authority approval. If they're all steel-framed then it gets you through the fire regulation requirements. We're using the steel frame in combination with the timber.

Which projects are you bidding for at the moment?

We are bidding on some large projects in Abu Dhabi - a 40,000; 42,000 and 60,000-man facility. It's quite incredible. The projects that we're bidding for in Abu Dhabi are with Aldar, Leighton and TDIC, and also with the Abu Dhabi Ports Authority. These are projects that we're looking at working on by ourselves and with AMB Mead, our new joint venture.

Through the partnership, where looking into AMB constructing the camps, while Mead will provide the facilities management. As a partnership, we're looking at getting the land and building these camps ourselves, and then owning and operating them.

We're also quoting for two projects in Ras Al Khaimah. One of them is for the LNG project in RAK. In Dubai, we are quoting for various projects. We're quoting an 8,000 and 12,000-man facility, all connected with projects in Dubailand.

How much per man does it cost to build a labour township?

Based on the specifications and the fact they're being built turnkey, along with the infrastructure/recreation facilities and the spacing requirement that Dubai and Abu Dhabi municipalities are going for now, it's working out at about US $10,000 dollars a man.

In Dubai, we're working on a 52,000-man proposal as an extension to an existing contract that we have - Nakheel. We're looking at the next stage on the waterfront project with Nakheel.

How are you overcoming the cost increases and shortage of skilled labour?

We've targetted an increase in turnover of 15% from last year. But we do envisage a reduction in profit as overheads are hit whilst we consolidate during this current year.

The reasons for that is worker's salaries; we're trying to automate as it's becoming more difficult to bring in any more staff to accommodate any further growth, unless we streamline operations.

We're going down the route of an ‘enterprise resource package', which comes on line next month, and are just trying to streamline the running of the office.

We're continually on recruitment trips and are looking further afield. But we're finding that the quality of the workforce available is less skilled, so you become a training school to a certain extent.

How do you try to retain staff?

We conduct an annual review on our staff and try to incentivise on that basis - whether it's giving them work targets, trying to promote from within or providing better packages - even if you're not the best in the market in terms of basic pay, you try and make up for it in the package - and based on the results of the company, you try and provide bonus payments.

It's better than our competitors who are still on a six-day week, however when the guys do have to work six-days, I have to give them more holiday.

They work the off-days so they can get more holiday, but that's their choice.

Do you plan to venture into any other GCC markets?

We're in quite advanced discussions with a Saudi investor who has very large investments here and who wants to take on more of a regional role.

It's to do labour camps and real estate projects. With the amount of resources and new systems we have on line, this is of interest to companies developing large housing projects.

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